TORONTO – Major shortcomings in a Toronto police probe into the deaths of billionaire philanthropists Barry and Honey Sherman have prompted the couple’s relatives to offer a multimillion-dollar reward for information that would solve the case, a lawyer for the family said Friday.
Brian Greenspan outlined a litany of alleged errors and lapses in the police investigation into the couple’s deaths, which detectives have described as a targeted double homicide.
He said those errors first surfaced when the Shermans’ bodies were discovered last December in their Toronto mansion and persist to this day.
“Police are required, by law, to maintain a certain professional standard in their approach to investigations,” Greenspan said at a press conference billed as an update on the case. “But in this case, at this stage of the investigation, the manner in which the Toronto Police Service conducted itself fell well below that standard.”
Toronto Police Chief Mark Saunders addressed Greenspan’s allegations during a news conference Friday afternoon and said the investigation undertaken by police has not been taken lightly.
“It’s not over yet. We are continuing to work very hard to reach the conclusion that we feel we can reach, with the help of the public,” he said.
The chief, however, said he is comfortable with the $10-million reward.
“Anything that helps leads to a successful conclusion is a good thing,” he said.
Greenspan said he was hired by the family 24 hours after Barry and Honey Shermans’ bodies were found by the side of their basement pool.
He said police first erred by indicating that they were not searching for any suspects – statements that Greenspan said amounted to police suggesting the founder of pharmaceutical giant Apotex and his wife died as a result of either suicide or murder-suicide.
He said that sent the wrong message and set the tone for an inadequate investigation.
Saunders disagreed with the sentiment and said at no point did police ever say it was a murder-suicide, instead “people took the ball and ran with it.”
What was said was to alleviate the concerns of the neighbourhood,” he said, referencing comments made by police the evening the Shermans were found in their home.
He added there were a rash of break-and-enters in the neighbourhood at the time of the murders.
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Saunders said it was a “suspicious investigation from the start.”
Greenspan said police did not vacuum the house, properly check points of entry into the mansion, or collect sufficient fingerprint and DNA evidence. He maintained some of those tasks have still not been completed.
The lawyer headed up a team of private investigators hired by the family, including several former Toronto homicide detectives, Ontario’s former chief pathologist, and forensic experts. He said his team has recovered evidence, including 25 finger and palm prints, that they have shared with police.
Greenspan said the family has offered a reward of up to $10 million to help bring the case to a conclusion.
“We’re trying to light the fire. That’s part of the reason we’ve gathered today to provide the new incentive for members of the public to come forward with information which they might have,” he said.
VIDEO: Ross McLean on the latest findings in the investigation into the deaths of Barry and Honey Sherman
“But also to light the fire under the Toronto Police Service and try to ensure that those investigative steps which either have not yet been completed and ought to have been taken by this time are completed.”
Greenspan said a call centre has been set up for tips both from North America (1-833-668-0001) and internationally (011-905-849-7373).
He said the lines will be monitored every day between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m.
Greenspan also invited Saunders to appoint a member of the police to join the independent panel.
Police have not provided any updates on their own investigation since January, and Greenspan did not disclose any details of what his team has uncovered.
The Toronto Police Services Board put out a statement regarding the investigation late Friday afternoon.
The Board echoes the Chief’s and Sherman family’s statements from earlier today: that everyone is working towards a common objective – to identify those responsible for the tragic deaths of Barry and Honey Sherman. Today, counsel for the Sherman family raised concerns with the quality of the police investigation into this case. In its role as the governing and oversight body for the Toronto Police Service, the Board takes seriously any concerns regarding the adequacy and effectiveness of police services being delivered in this city. As the Board exercises its function, it respects the prohibition on directing specific operations – including an ongoing investigation.
The Board has been briefed at a high level by the Chief with respect to this investigation and the concerns raised by counsel for the Sherman family. The Board understands that this is a complex investigation with many elements. Based on the information provided to the Board by the Chief, the Board has full confidence in the Chief’s oversight of this investigation, including the Toronto Police Service’s ability to ultimately identify the perpetrators.
—With files from Jessica Patton